Massage is great for helping muscles recover, improving mobility and reducing aches and pains from training and competition. The performance-enhancing technique is based on myofascial release—i.e., reducing the tightness in fibrous tissue and muscles by applying pressure to them.
You can gain most of the benefits of myofacial release with a foam roller—a dense foam cylinder. Athletes should slowly roll over the desired area, focusing on spots that are particularly sensitive, to eliminate tightness. Target areas include the IT Bands [outside of thighs], glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves and upper back.
At first, foam rolling may feel uncomfortable or even slightly painful; however, over time pain and discomfort decline as your muscles and tissue are loosened. After continued use, you should notice a dramatic reduction in tightness as well as enhanced mobility and flexibility, all of which are particularly beneficial to athletes seeking to maintain full range of motion in their joints. Flexibility allows you to properly execute skills without any hindrances.
Experts recommend foam rolling both before and after a workout—before to loosen up muscles and after to remove any toxins (such as lactic acid). Feel free to foam roll every day to maximize the benefits.
For more information on foam rolling exercises, check out the video above.